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Archive for December, 2016

As we get to the close of yet another year, and the end of all those “Year in Review” articles from around the world, I think there is still one thing left to be said:

 

FUCK YOU, 2016, AND THE HORSE OF THE APOCALYPSE YOU RODE IN ON!!!

 

Seriously, who did we piss off? I know some gods and monsters can be pretty capricious, but this year was like nothing I could have ever imagined. And I’m a science-fiction writer!

So let’s take the next few days to send off whatever appeasements are necessary to whomever you think will listen. Then go hug your loved ones, forgive your hated ones, and get a new pair of shorts on because I’m not so sure 2017 is going to be any better.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst, as they say.

 

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For my Northern Hemispheric peeps, I send a little warmth and good cheer your way:

 

yule-fire

 

For those dedicated followers in the Southern reaches, don’t forget your sun screen:

 

sunbathing-cat

And to everyone, everywhere:

 

iabholiday2012thumb

Now for the bourbon and chocolate…

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It’s that time of the year when we look back over the past twelve months and evaluate things. The things we did, the things we said, the things that happened. We try to figure out why things are the way they are, and how those things affect how we are. We celebrate the little victories, and we mourn the terrible losses.

2016 seems like the Titanic of years – it launched with lots of flash and promise, and then quickly upended into the cold, dark drink of despair. And much like the victims of the original Titanic disaster, most of us are in the water wondering what the hell just happened.

cat-treading-water

Don’t you dare say it can’t get worse…

I’m sure the experts will be pondering that question for some time to come. It’ll be one of those mysteries that will stymie the great thinkers of the world for the next thousand years, if we manage to survive that long. Given the current make-up of Trump’s cabinet, I’m not sure we’ll last the next year, let alone the next millennium. But we have to keep plugging along, if only to piss off all those who would love to see us fail.

This time of year is also hard for a lot of people. The holidays bring family and friends together like no other part of the year. And when we’re all at the table, or next to the tree, or sitting by the Yule log watching the flames burn the year away, we find ourselves reminded of those who are not with us any longer.

It was twenty years ago this month my brother died in a car accident. He left behind a widow who couldn’t cope, a two-month old baby who couldn’t understand, and family and friends who couldn’t see the world without him around. Twenty years ago, or yesterday – time doesn’t really matter in such things. There are still those moments when I think, wow, I really should tell him about…

I think he'd really like my novel...

I think he’d really like my novel…

My brother was still in elementary school when I went off to college. From that point forward I lived hundreds of miles away from home. I missed his football games, his girlfriends, his jobs, his growing into a pretty cool dude with a big heart. I wasn’t there for him when he got stupid and was picked up for DUI. I wasn’t there for him when he suffered a neck injury on the job and had to be retrained because the pain wouldn’t let him do what he wanted anymore. I wasn’t there for him when he and his wife went through some rough patches. I can’t even remember the last thing I talked to him about before he was gone.

The first time I went home after the funeral was surreal. His dogs were still at my Mom’s house and I expected him to come through the front door at any moment. Having lived so far away for so long, it was normal for me to not have him around regularly. But it wasn’t normal to be home and NOT have him around. It really hit me when his daughter – then three or four – asked me to help her tie her shoes. Such a simple act, and it was all I could do to keep from balling my eyes out. That’s when it hit me: my brother had always been there, so I took for granted that he always would be.

Nothing is forever, kids. Nothing.

nothing_forever_except_change

Our lives are filled with untold number of ships we have to steer: relationships, friendships, partnerships. Too many times we take most of those for granted. All the losses this year in the public venues – from David Bowie to John Glenn – hurt so badly because those people seemed to always be there. Names I had heard and faces I had seen since childhood, suddenly gone. They leave a void that will never be filled. Not having met any of them personally, it’s easier to mourn from afar and move on with life. It’s much harder to do that when it’s family or friends. Especially when you realize how little effort you made to let them know how much they meant to you.

I make a point of thanking my husband whenever he does something for me or around the house. Whether it be bringing me a glass of milk because we can’t dare disturb the cat in my lap, or taking out the trash under cover of dark because he’s in his underwear, I make sure he knows I appreciate his efforts. A simple “thank you” goes an amazingling long way when properly applied. Some might think it’s silly to thank someone for doing something they should be doing anyway, but let me remind you – no one owes you anything. Not one damn thing.

My husband and I are volunteers in this relationship. Neither of us NEEDS the other, but because of our mutual love, respect, and dark sense of humor, we WANT the other. To keep that going in a positive direction, we each make sure the other knows how important they are as often as possible. We don’t wait for birthdays or anniversaries or holidays to cough up an expensive present and then blithely go about our business the rest of the time. We do and say things daily to show each other we always matter. It helps us keep our bond strong, and allows us more open communication. And, much as I like chocolate on Valentine’s Day, I’d much rather have a hug from him just because of some little thing I did around the house. Yes, I just admitted to liking my husband more than chocolate. All the more reason to make sure he sticks around, and that means not expecting him to be there just because we’re married.

lack-of-friendship

So there’s another thing to reflect on this holiday season: who have you taken for granted, and why? Make a point to fix that as soon as possible. Get your ships righted now, because you never know when that iceberg will show up and send you straight to the bottom.

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This year has been an egg-sucking space monster, as we all know. In the midst of all the prominent people who have died, a raging goat-fuck of an election, and rising prices combined with stagnant paychecks, the little every day things that help us get through took on greater importance. For me it’s being able to play with my cats, and holding hands with the best partner a woman could have. I figured I could survive anything as long as I could have those two. But no, this year was going to shit on those, as well…

hellno-kitty

My sentiments exactly…

So I’ve already told you about my husband’s summer adventure here. As if dealing with that wasn’t enough, the gods saw fit to hand me another flaming bag of poo in the guise of a sick kitty. Roan, the neighborhood stray I adopted (and talked about here), started having some intestinal issues at the end of May. It didn’t appear to be serious, and he was still doing all the other normal cat stuff like playing and eating, so I thought it was just a temporary thing because cats do that sometimes.

Preoccupied with helping my husband’s recovery, it’s over a week later before I realized Roan was still having problems. In fact, he made a point of walking me into the bathroom and having me watch him use the litter box to bring the issue home. He was straining a lot, and producing very little. My first thought was that he’d eaten something that had bound him up. While I try to be careful with all the different kinds of string I have around here, cats are notorious for getting into things they aren’t supposed to, and string is top of the list for delectable devouring. After consulting my pet medical manual, I started dosing him with hairball gel. It’s supposed to help things move more smoothly, as it were, and would theoretically allow him to pass whatever it was stopping him up.

 

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

But a few days later, things hadn’t improved. Roan was still eating, but not as much as before, and he wasn’t as interested in playing. I decided it was time to head to the vet. How to pay for it was hardly a thought, because, well, you just don’t worry about that with your children. The local clinic attached to the shelter was booked solid the whole week. Since he was still eating and drinking, they didn’t consider it an emergency situation, but would put me on the waiting list for a cancelled appointment. I agreed but it nagged me for the next few hours until I broke down and called the vet I’d used for my last batch of animals. I hadn’t been to them in nearly two years because they were more expensive and farther away than the clinic. But they remembered me, and could get me in that afternoon.

I went by myself because riding in the car was so painful for my broken husband. And Roan was young and healthy otherwise, so I just didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. But an hour and a set of x-rays later, and my optimism was shattered. Roan had three large masses in his abdomen. One the size of a baseball had squished his intestines into near uselessness.

Cancer. Fucking cancer.

 

Yup.

Yup.

I just stared at the pictures as the vet explained the situation as gently as he could. The prognosis was terrible. Even if I’d had thousands of dollars to throw at it. A few weeks, at best, and Roan would only suffer more and more each day. I made the only reasonable decision that could be made in that situation – I released Roan across the Rainbow Bridge and to the Summerlands. He purred in my arms to the very end.

I barely remember the drive home. I cried the whole way. My husband had pulled himself out of his recovery chair and was waiting for me when I came through the door. I cried on him. I cried on my pillow. Devastated, I sank back into that old familiar friend, depression. I wallowed in my tears and hid in my bed. If it weren’t for the need to help my husband, I might have disappeared entirely. It was days before I realized I wasn’t the only one grieving.

Pip, my other rescue (I introduced her here), was looking for her wrestling buddy. She would race up the cat tree and then stop and look to see if Roan was following, like she had always done, but he wasn’t there. Doing her funny little tribble trill, she would dart up the stairs, then stop at the top and look around. Nothing. Perplexed, she started sitting by the back door as if asking out to go search for him. Soon she developed a circuit of the house: living room window, kitchen door, office door, bedroom window, sewing room window. Around and around again, restless and confused. I gave her as much attention as I could. I got the toys out and played with her. She accepted my efforts, but the truth is I’m lousy at racing around the house at 3:00AM, and without a protective coat of fur, I don’t stand up well to her version of wrestling.

I need a wrasslin' buddy!

I need a wrasslin’ buddy!

It became pretty obvious that we needed to get her another companion. Normally I wouldn’t get another animal so soon after losing one, but circumstances dictated otherwise. Within days of making that decision, the friend of a friend on Facebook sent out a notice they were looking for a home for kittens they had hand-raised after being abandoned by their feral mother. Specifically, two long-haired ginger kittens, a boy and a girl, the latter of which was polydactyl. My husband gave his grudging approval, and a few days later we were bringing home a couple of darling furballs.

Pip watched us intently as we brought them into the house. I kept them in the back bathroom the first night, and she sat by the door sniffing for information on the newcomers. Within a couple days, the kittens were exploring all over the place under the watchful gaze of a black shadow. A couple weeks later, Pip was grooming the orange fuzzballs.

It’s been over three months now, and the three of them seem to be doing just fine. The “kittens” are nearly eight months old and big enough to wrestle with, which seems to be a favorite past time for all of them. Plus Pip has grown more affectionate with me, actually asking to sit in my lap on a regular basis when she didn’t used to be interested at all. I can’t go anywhere in the house, including the bathroom, without an escort. And who needs blankets when you have cats? For all the pain this year has wrought, it’s amazing how a purring feline can make everything seem just fine.

 

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

 

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